What the Dead Know
It’s 1975 when Sunny and Heather Bethany disappear from a busy mall outside Baltimore, Maryland. Under eye-rolling protest to her parents, Sunny had agreed to let her younger sister tag along and eleven-year-old Heather was thrilled to go. Maybe she’d spend her birthday money and they’d definitely get a Karmelkorn. But at fifteen, Sunny had her own plans and the two had separated when they arrived. ”I don’t want to do anything with you. I don’t care where you go. Just do your own thing and come back here at five-twenty,” she’d told her sister.
At 5:30, Dave Bethany waited and waited to pick up his daughters, but they never showed. What happened that day and when do you stop looking? Despite an intensive investigation, the case goes cold, and their exhausted parents’ lives are shattered.
Thirty years later, a mysterious woman returns to Baltimore and claims to be Heather. She knows a great deal about that day in 1975, the Bethany family, and the old neighborhood, but her wily personality is making the detectives suspicious.
In this character-driven mystery, the key players lead the reader through the day the girls disappear and the details of the case. Heading the investigation are Detective Kevin Infante, a twice-divorced ladies’ man and retired detective Chet Willoughby, who was so invested in the case he took the file home with him when he left the force.
The story is written in past and present and from various points of view and readers get a look at the Bethany family before and after the girls’ disappearance, including the parents’ imperfect marriage. I thought it was particularly interesting to see how Dave and Miriam Bethany cope and what they do as the years pass. They have both faced the same tragedy, but adapt in very different ways.
Heather or no, whoever this woman is, she has a painful past and has learned how to survive under the radar, mostly by using her quick mind and manipulative personality.
Lippman reveals key details as the story develops. Some are false leads, others suggest the truth. All is revealed in the final pages with a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed reading this mystery, published in 2007. Laura Lippman is a New York Times best-selling author of nineteen novels, both stand-alones and the Tess Monaghan series. Her newest standalone, Sunburn, looks like a good summer read!
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